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Jun 20, 2018 4:59 PM CST
Thread OP
Name: Christopher
New Brunswick, NJ, USA (Zone 7a)
I have a project underway -- turning a 150 year old park-style cemetery just down the street from me into a collection of heritage/heirloom/antique garden plants, including and revolving around roses. It's been something I wanted to do for a bit, but couldn't find a place willing to host such a collection AND willing to stick to a planting plan with identification tags. Long story short, when I was put in touch with The Elmwood Cemetery in NJ (you'll have to google that, since I can't post links yet), we started talking about what we can do.

As Spring came late to our area, I was behind on getting my own garden ready for the season, so it wasn't until June 5th that I started on making the first bed. This approximately 32 feet by 35 feet area is under a beautiful beech tree, which casts too much shade on the ground below for grass, which left lots of bare earth showing. This will be too shady for roses, but I know there are things which like these conditions. Right now, we're talking about Hostas, Ferns, Lamium, maybe some Cyclamen, Begonia grandis, early Spring bulbs, etc. There will still be room to walk through the bed, as the plants will be used around the tree, around the stones, etc. My goal is to jot down a date range for the stones in a bed, and use only those cultivars which were in commerce during those times. I've already created a vast list of appropriate roses and other plants, including where to find them. This will be my reference for creating each new planting area, as well as for dotted "specimen" plants in smaller areas.

But first, the bed has to be prepped. I cut a furrow-edge around it, laid cardboard over the scant grass and weeds, and covered it in wood chips. The cemetery has a HUGE supply of wood chips in several large piles -- I was told it's over ten dumptrucks' worth in total -- which increases as trees die, lose branches, etc. and their remains are chipped and dumped. So this project is, as cemetery president Eleanor says, "killing many birds with one stone" -- finding a use for the chips, eliminating eyesore and hard-to-mow areas, adding beauty, encouraging community interest, etc.

I've gone into more detail on the Houzz Antique Roses Forum in my thread "The Elmwood Cemetery Rose Garden can officially begin!", but for those of you who'd rather not go there, this was a summing-up of the back-story. And below are some pics.

Satellite image of the cemetery -- note that those are houses, not cars, along the perimeter. The cemetery is about 50 acres.

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Cemetery map with historic notables, from website.

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June 5th -- I begin!

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June 6th -- extra day off from work, so continuing with more cardboard, then finished rough-cutting the furrow edge when I ran out of cardboard.

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Since I had more energy but no more cardboard, I cleaned up the furrow with a hand trowel, and clipped exposed tree roots.

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Once that was done, it was just a matter of collecting as many appropriate cardboard boxes as I could get during my work-week, then bringing them to the cemetery on my "normal weekend" of Mon-Tue. Generally, I'm there for about four hours a day, two or three days a week.

These pictures were taken after working on the bed June 11th and 12th.

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Then this is as far as I got after June 18th and 19th -- I would have kept going, but I ran out of cardboard!

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I managed to score some more, but when I got to the cemetery, I was surprised with a carload of cardboard from one of the board members. Those long boxes made finishing the last bit of the bed a breeze. I saved the boxes I brought for the next bed.

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Then Mark, the groundskeeper, came by with more mulch drops, which I spread out. Unfortunately, I was a bit short of finishing, but Mark had to go off and finish something else before going home for the day.

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That last bit was sneering at me for assuming I'd finish today, but no worries -- Mark will drop more mulch while I'm at work for the week, and it's just a few minutes of spreading it before starting the next bed. That one gets more sun, so old roses will go in there when it's ready.


Last edited by AquaEyes Jun 20, 2018 5:23 PM Icon for preview
Jun 21, 2018 6:57 AM CST
Frisco, TX (Zone 8a)
Container Gardener Butterflies Echinacea Hummingbirder Roses Region: Texas
@AquaEyes Can't wait to see the progress. Looks like a fantastic project you have started.
Jun 21, 2018 8:03 AM CST
Long Island, New York, USA (Zone 7a)
Region: New York Roses
That is so cool! What a wonderful and generous side project. Thanks for posting can't wait to see the progress. Hurray!
Avatar for porkpal
Jun 21, 2018 9:17 AM CST
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX (Zone 9a)
Cat Lover Charter ATP Member Keeper of Poultry I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Keeps Horses
Roses Plant Identifier Farmer Raises cows Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 2
I am glad that you are continuing your cemetery project chronicles here. Efforts like yours are valuable in preserving the great old roses.
Avatar for Kesroses
Jun 21, 2018 10:55 AM CST
East TN (Zone 7a)
I love following your progress, Christopher. This is going to make a big difference to visitors
Jun 21, 2018 5:55 PM CST
Name: Suzanne/Sue
Sebastopol, CA (Zone 9a)
Sunset Zone 15
Plant Database Moderator Region: California Cottage Gardener Garden Photography Roses Clematis
Daylilies Houseplants Foliage Fan Birds Butterflies Bee Lover
Hurray! Arm chair traveling and watching someone do the hard work, love it! Green Grin!
Thanks so much for sharing the progress!
My gardening Blog!
Handmade quilts, new & vintage fabrics in my Etsy store. Summer Song Cottage
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Jul 10, 2018 8:00 PM CST
Thread OP
Name: Christopher
New Brunswick, NJ, USA (Zone 7a)
A little update since then -- I started the second bed, which is larger than the first. This is also under some shade, but not as dense, and has some sunny patches, so roses can go in here. I started this one two weeks ago, but last week's heat wave kept me away from it except for four hours on the 4th, when it was "only" 95F at the hottest.

The bed is built around two railed-in family plots that touch at one corner and face opposite ways. I looped the perimeter a bit beyond, curving where it meets the "road" -- which is really just one of a series of grassy paths intersecting the cemetery, as seen in the old map in my first post. There are a bunch of other railed-in family plots, and these will be my next beds to prepare. They vary from being in all-day full-sun to dappled shade at midday, all the way to bright shade with no direct sun. I'm nudging them to let me do the sunny ones first, but in the end, the order doesn't really matter much, since they'll eventually all get done and be planted.

I took these pics as I walked clockwise around the bed. You can make out the edge dug out of the grass, and where the mulch pile sits on a blue tarp -- I cleared away the mulch lying over the edge, so the bed has the same curve as in that pile.

Not much else to say about this, but I thought I'd update you all. Oh, and if any of you live close enough to want to jump in and help, let me know. Even if it's just sitting there pulling tape off cardboard boxes, offering advice, or even as far as moving buckets of mulch from the piles -- all help is welcome and appreciated.

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Avatar for porkpal
Jul 10, 2018 8:24 PM CST
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX (Zone 9a)
Cat Lover Charter ATP Member Keeper of Poultry I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Keeps Horses
Roses Plant Identifier Farmer Raises cows Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 2
That is going to be really nice. I wish I could help; it is a worthy undertaking.
Jul 11, 2018 5:08 AM CST
Zone 9, Sunset Zone 9 (Zone 9b)
Christopher, what a wonderful project and I love seeing the pictures. I bet the local residents are "rooting" for you as well (bad pun, I know). If I was there, I would help you out.
How nice of folks to drop cardboard by. I know how much cardboard it takes (and it takes a lot more than folks think) after having done that with my front yard to get rid of my neighbors weeds that decided to come and take up residence at my house. So, will you be planting in the fall or waiting until the spring or doing a combo of both? Talk about your research! I think it is great that you will be planting varieties that grew during the time that the "local residents" were alive. Wonderful!
Avatar for bart2018
Jul 11, 2018 8:55 AM CST
Tuscany, Italy
Ray_gun is right-a wonderful and generous project. I can't help but sigh a bit, however,lol; I wish I could be as neat, organized, and efficient as you are!!!
Avatar for Rosiewells
Jul 11, 2018 7:41 PM CST

So glad to see you chronicling your journey here! And how exciting that you are beginning the start the new beds. Can't wait to see your progress.
Jul 11, 2018 9:16 PM CST
Thread OP
Name: Christopher
New Brunswick, NJ, USA (Zone 7a)
Today I was off again -- my work-week now is Thursday through Sunday, but I still hit overtime -- but I was also out of cardboard. Typically, I gather it from my job when I'm there, and use it all on Monday when I'm off. Then, before I go home, I head to the center of town and gather more cardboard from outside the stores -- every Monday night it's put out for recycling pick-up the next morning. That gets me through mulching on Tuesday, but then I'm out again. So since I'm off three days beginning this month, I'll use Wednesdays to scout the next areas to be planted and cut the borders.

Today I did the next two family plot beds with railing borders on my "do these first" list Eleanor wrote for me. The first was the Lippincott bed, which gets early morning sun, dappled shade from about 11am until about 2pm, then mostly sun until sunset.

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The next bed -- the Staat family plot -- was one I was really looking forward to, since it's basically full-sun all day. Here, I'm going to try some of the more tender old roses -- Chinas, Teas, Noisettes. I've experimented with them in my own garden, and I've found that they need at least one of two things to keep going here. One thing would be a protected spot, such as against a house. Here, Winter damage is minimized. My tender roses along the house have about as much damage as do typical Hybrid Teas planted out in the open.

The other thing would be a spot in full sun all day. Here, even if Winter takes its toll, the growing season here is hot enough to push them to regrow a lot. My "Bermuda Spice" is in a totally unprotected spot, and sometimes Winter really does a number on it. But even if cut back all the way to the mulch line, this rose will rebound to five feet tall by the end of the growing season, and blooming all the while.

So, here's the Staat bed, outlined.

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I have two more family plots like these on my "do these first" list. One I checked out after I finished the Staat family plot, but by that point in the day, Eleanor (the cemetery president) had left for the day, and I don't feel comfortable starting until I've confirmed an outline with her. But I did a mental outline myself, which I'll confirm with her on Monday. The last bed has a couple of headstones that need to be tended before I plant, but I suppose I could still get that outlined in the meantime.

After that, I can start finding smaller spots, such as around a tree, that could become beds. For these areas, I'm thinking of putting something suckering (like a Gallica) plus something to climb the tree (what will depend on the tree), then finish with some other little things that bloom at other times. Any rose that suckers beyond the bed will get eaten by the lawn mowers, so these spots are ideal for the potted suckers I already received as donations from garden friends, which means I can clear out my back yard -- currently full of potted things for the cemetery -- before Winter. I've since learned that it's better to prepare planting sites FIRST, and THEN start asking for things to go there. By Spring 2019, I should have areas ready for the next round of donated suckers, so rather than potting them up, I can just pop them straight into the ground.

Anyway, that's my last update on this until next week. Tomorrow I return to my paying job.


Aug 27, 2018 8:21 PM CST
Thread OP
Name: Christopher
New Brunswick, NJ, USA (Zone 7a)
It's been awhile since I've taken pics at the cemetery, so here comes a bunch. First up is the first bed I did. I pulled the mulch out of the edge, since the grass and weeds have since died back. A couple weeks ago, I put some plants in already -- four Japanese painted ferns, and one Begonia grandis.

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The edge held up nicely under the mulch, and now it's opened up again. I may widen this next year -- after the second bed, I dug the edges twice as wide, which works better.

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Four Japanese painted ferns (basic wild form), and one Begonia grandis. I'll be adding nine Hosta sieboldiana 'Elegans' and seven Dryopteris x australis as "feature plants", then fill in around them, leaving paths open for walking through the bed. If I find it next year, the rose 'Kiftsgate' will be planted near the base of the beech to climb into it.

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Next bed in next post.


Last edited by AquaEyes Sep 3, 2018 7:02 AM Icon for preview
Aug 27, 2018 8:52 PM CST
Thread OP
Name: Christopher
New Brunswick, NJ, USA (Zone 7a)
This was the "second bed", which actually includes five family plots, so it's HUGE. This took me over a month to finish. This shot shows the original family plot that was on my list, but with Ellie's permission, I stretched the perimeter to include the family plot behind it, then extended to include the family plot diagonally behind it, wrapped around the edge of the "road, and curving to include about 2/3 of a fourth family plot and half of a fifth.

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The Van Nortwick family plot was actually the one on the list -- the rest just sort of "happened" as Ellie and I walked the perimeter.

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The first actual rose planted for this project was "Pulich Children", discovered at the Sacramento Cemetery's Historic Rose Garden, named for the headstones where it was found, and purchased directly from them. I dug the hole and let Ellie have the honors of planting the first rose. It looks a bit sad now, but it's sending new growth. This is on the right side of the entrance to this railed-in bed. On the left side will go 'Monsieur Boncenne' from my garden. I suspected the two roses were the same, so here they'll be planted just a few feet apart for comparison. Even if they're not, they're similar enough to function as "bookends" to the entrance here.

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I chose 'Baronne Prevost' to be planted behind this young woman's headstone. She was born three years before the rose was released into commerce.

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These are the main stones in this family plot. Behind them I planted 'Morlettii', an old Boursault. While the Boursaults were often grown as climbers, I'm going to let this grow unsupported -- unless that turns out to be a bad idea, in which case I'll put some kind of support back there.

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Some old roses will spread by suckering, so I planted them with that in mind. In this bed, 'Orpheline de Juliette' -- a dark purple Gallica / Hybrid China -- was planted on one side of the ring around this tree.

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On the other side of the tree seen in the previous photo I planted 'Belle Isis'.

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Walking around the bed to the other side, here's the edge of the family plot that was behind the previous one.

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At the base of the main stone in this plot I planted 'Botzaris', which was released during the lifetimes of the matriarch and patriarch of this family.

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This grassy curve was meant to allow people to walk up and see into the bed. In the space where the corners of the railed family plots meet will go an old Alba rose -- either 'Semi-Plena' or 'Maxima', whichever I can get over Winter.

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This is the entrance to the third family plot in this bed. As you can see, there's a rail missing. Wherever I find this, I'm going to plant something that performs the function of a barrier but which still allows people to see what's behind it.

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Here's the fourth family plot within this bed.

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I purposely didn't include the flush-to-the-ground headstone in the bed, because they're difficult to keep from getting obscured without lifting the stones to a higher grade. Plus, this leaves another curved grassy area on which people can stand to get a better look within the bed without actually going into it.

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The curve around the tree, bordered by the unpaved "road."

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This is another grassy curve -- again, purposely excluding the flush stones from the bed. From here, you'll be able to look into the center, where an Alba rose will be planted.

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Next bed in next post.


Last edited by AquaEyes Aug 27, 2018 11:05 PM Icon for preview
Aug 27, 2018 8:53 PM CST
Name: Bonnie
Looking good Christopher! I can really tell that all your hard work is paying off, it's going to look great when you start planting the roses and everything starts to fill out. I'm very impressed by everything you have accomplished so far and I'm so glad you are sharing your project with us!
Last edited by RosesnTx Aug 27, 2018 8:56 PM Icon for preview
Aug 27, 2018 9:08 PM CST
Thread OP
Name: Christopher
New Brunswick, NJ, USA (Zone 7a)
The Needham-Roxbury family plot was the third bed on my list. Once again, while walking the perimeter with Ellie, we decided to extend it a bit beyond, but not as crazy as the second bed. This time, it was a matter of following "natural outlines" and keeping in mind space for mowers to get through. In the end, this bed was about the size of two family plots, and took me two weeks' worth of days off to finish.

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This was the first bed which I made with a "double-wide" edge. The result was that I was able to mulch over the inside edge and still leave some space for the mowers on the grass side. This became the way I proceeded with the others.

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For some reason, the headstones in this railed family plot have no dates. I'm waiting to find out from the records, so I know what to plant in there. In the meantime, I put some pots of things that are older than the cemetery -- I figured they're safe bets. But note the red pot is OUTSIDE the railing.....

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In the red pot -- and within the next family plot -- is 'Nigrette', a Hybrid Tea from 1934 with flowers that are about as close to black as a rose can get. Well, at least that's how dark they can get when it's cool. When it's warm, the flowers are a dark ruby overlaid with blackish-purple shadings. It's "allowed" there because it came out within the lifetime of someone buried in that plot.

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The curve here was meant to allow passage of the mowers, but also offers interest for walking around.

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This stone is the only one for the Heinz family.

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Another curve in the perimeter -- I think they provide a nice break from the grid of the cemetery layout.

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As with Heinz, this is the only stone for the Fisher family.

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Past the Fisher stone, heading towards the front of Needham-Roxbury behind it. There are some interesting opportunities for planting here -- full-sun from sunrise until about 1-2pm, then dappled shade, with some before-sunset beams of light.

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Next bed in next post.


Aug 27, 2018 9:17 PM CST
Thread OP
Name: Christopher
New Brunswick, NJ, USA (Zone 7a)
The Lippincott family bed was the fourth on my list, and the first one to be pretty much on its own, without extending into another family plot -- well, not much, anyway. The back of the bed extends to the edges of the headstones behind this plot -- otherwise, I'd have a thin strip of grass between the bed and the stones. As Ellie says when we walk the perimeters, "it just makes sense."

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The Lippincott bed also has a tree planted just outside, so I extended the perimeter around the base of it. And as with another bed, I planted two suckering old roses at the base of the tree. There, they can spread a bit, but have only one point of entry into the railed section, so would be easily contained.

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The entrance to the Lippincott bed.

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It's actually unusual for these railed plots to still have all their railings. Almost all are missing at least one -- a few have none, leaving just the bare posts sticking up.

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Here's another example of where extending the perimeter just beyond the plot "makes sense", with respect to mowing. That rounded extension will be home to something....just not sure what. Possibly, Rosa blanda will go there, since that species is thornless, and offers Winter interest with its red leafless canes.

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That flush stone was one I actually uncovered while preparing this bed -- it was covered with about 2" of pine needles in varying states of decomposition. It's also a bit of an anomaly -- the family plot there is mostly from the late 19th and early 20th century, then someone else from the family was buried there about 40 years after the last before him.

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The curve around the tree -- these are more heavily mulched at the moment than they'd be later, simply to kill the weeds under the cardboard. By late Autumn, I'll scrape most of it away. Oh, and after this was taken, I planted "Canary Island Gallica" and 'Belle Sans Flatterie' here.

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Next bed in next post.


Aug 27, 2018 9:34 PM CST
Thread OP
Name: Christopher
New Brunswick, NJ, USA (Zone 7a)
This is my last bed to post tonight, which makes this thread finally up to date.

The Staat family plot is my fifth bed, and is still being finished. This plot is mostly full-sun -- just some early-morning shade.

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The whole Staat family bed -- note it has two entrances. As with the other beds, I'll be leaving open paths for walking through.

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As with many railed family plots, there's a rail missing. Here, I'm going to plant Verbena bonairensis -- it is tall enough to discourage entry, but "see-through" enough to not obstruct the view to the stones behind it.

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Walking around the Staat bed.....

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I want to plant the rose 'Mme Alfred Carriere' to climb this tree.

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There's one strip left to be covered in cardboard.

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And coming back to the front...........

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Since this bed gets a lot of sun, I'm going to aim for some of the more tender roses here -- Chinas, Teas, Noisettes -- as well as some others. I've found that so long as the roses get lots of sun during the growing season, whatever our Winters take away will more than be replaced in a season.

Anyway, that's my update. There's only one more bed on my list, but I've been holding off on it because I have to wait for a stone to be set upright again. If I'm finished with what I've got, and there's still time in the season, I just may find another railed bed to begin -- there's at least another dozen of them in this section. Or, another idea we talked about is making ring-beds around trees, using some of the many logs piled up at the cemetery for making low raised beds. Then, over Autumn and Winter, I'll start deciding upon and finding things to be planted in Spring. After that, on to starting more beds.


Aug 27, 2018 10:44 PM CST
Name: Lola
Region: Australia Birds Garden Photography Cottage Gardener Farmer Irises
Roses Keeps Sheep
Hi Christopher, I was wondering if there is an existing work that lists the dates of introduction of rose varieties in order, or whether you are thinking of publishing such a work yourself? I have been looking for a good source of information that starts with date, then type of rose, colour, habit, etc. So far I have only found plant lists that have the dates at the end or not at all. I sometimes daydream about a rose garden that can be added to every year so you start at the present and then wander to the distant past as you walk through it, so you are strolling through history. Lola.
Aug 27, 2018 11:31 PM CST
Thread OP
Name: Christopher
New Brunswick, NJ, USA (Zone 7a)
Hi, Lola. To my knowledge, the closest thing to that would be if you were to do an advanced search on HelpMeFind by date of introduction. But the tough part with that is that HelpMeFind's dates of introduction often go back to the earliest reference for a particular rose, in the case of the really old ones. And that's very culturally-biased -- for example, the first Chinas to reach Europe will have introduction dates corresponding to that time, but this ignores the fact that those roses were being grown in China for centuries already. Another itch concerns roses that were introduced into general commerce some time after being originally bred. Would you date the rose from when it was bred, or when it became available?

In anticipation of this project -- I had actually wanted to do this for a couple of years before I started here, but was just looking for the right site -- I made an extensive list of old roses, sorted alphabetically by class, then alphabetically within each class, and included the year of introduction and current sources (including gardens willing to share, if no US nursery currently carries the rose). My plan for the cemetery is to enter this information into an excel sheet, with separate columns for name, class, date of introduction, source, and location within the cemetery. This would allow a person to sort by individual columns -- so, for your query, you'd be able to sort from oldest to most recent. But that'd be a list I make myself, and it'd include only the roses I use at the cemetery. Eventually, I'd like it to be an extensive collection, but that will take some years.

I, too, was thinking of doing something like a walk through time at the cemetery. I had many different ideas. But I'm glad we settled where we are -- starting in one area by decorating family plots, then expanding to specimen roses surrounded by turf, as well as beds built around the bases of trees, etc. The main idea is to keep the garden focused in one area, then gradually expand outward. If I had to run around all fifty acres by myself to tend to things, I'd be exhausted. Hopefully people will start signing up to help, once I have a few beds blooming in a year or so, and we can think about going back to that. But for now, my focus is to create the illusion that the roses -- and other plants I use in family plots -- were planted at the time the people were buried. That means using something that was available then. Because the plots aren't arranged sequentially -- and each contain ranges within them -- I can't just start at one end with the oldest and work my way through time as I go. For example, the Staat bed in my last post has a date range of almost 100 years between the earliest and most recent death. If I went from earliest birth to most recent death, it's more like 150 years -- and that's just one bed. It wouldn't be "fair" to that bed to be stuck in one era just because I wanted to start my "rose tour" there, so I consider each bed individually, with respect to dates and sun/shade conditions.



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